In a stunning development that once again brings the threat that right-wing terror groups pose to our national security, twelve members of a “militia group” are facing an indictment for planning to kidnap the Democratic governor of Michigan.
News of the impending charges broke in The Detroit News ahead of a press conference to reveal the complete details of what the FBI is describing as a “major operation” to put down a full-on domestic insurrection.
“The court filing…alleges the conspirators twice conducted surveillance at Whitmer’s personal vacation home and discussed kidnapping her to a “secure location” in Wisconsin to stand “trial” for treason prior to the Nov. 3 election,” reports the News.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) is in her first term and became the face of the right-wing’s astroturfed “anti-lockdown” movement for the difficult decisions she was forced to make in order to bring a massive coronavirus outbreak under control.
President Trump’s tweet demanding that somebody “Liberate Michigan” poured gasoline on the tensions over the lockdown, leading to a gang of heavily armed thugs to invade the state’s capitol during a session of the legislature and forced the cancellation of the session.
Now, the illegal criminal conspiracy against a state and its governor that the sitting Republican President implicitly encouraged has come to fruition, as is obvious from a court document the FBI filed today:
The alleged plot involved reaching out to members of a Michigan militia, according to a federal affidavit filed Thursday.
“Several members talked about murdering ‘tyrants’ or ‘taking’ a sitting governor,” an FBI agent wrote in the affidavit. “The group decided they needed to increase their numbers and encouraged each other to talk to their neighbors and spread their message.”
Amongst the complaints recorded by federal informants, the plotters were very upset that Governor Whitmer closed gyms, which she did because of their obviously high potential to generate deadly coronavirus super-spreader events.
The FBI identified six men by name in its filing, Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris, and Brandon Caserta, but didn’t release their hometowns. The case is connected to a shootout that agents had in Metropolitan Detroit, in which they killed a suspect.
At the time Donald Trump began brewing today’s insurrection against the states of Michigan, Virginia, and Minnesota, a Georgetown University constitutional law professor opined that Trump’s tweets weren’t just awful, but they violated federal law against inciting insurrection. Mary McCord wrote in the Post:
It’s an echo of the “Second Amendment remedies” rhetoric of the 2010 midterm election. It’s clearly a violation of federalism principles, and it’s quite possibly a crime under federal law. And insurrection or treason against state government is a crime in Virginia, Michigan and Minnesota, as well as most states.
The penalty for a federal violation of the law McCord cited against advocating the overthrow of a Government is a term of 20 years imprisonment. However, there hasn’t been a notable prosecution under the above reference Smith Act since the early days of the Cold War, when the Department of Justice wielded it as a weapon against alleged Communist Party leaders, many of whom were acquitted under its overbroad language.
The Justice Department lists it and four other statutes as “key internal security provisions” of the federal code, along with sabotage, rebellion or insurrection, sedition or seditious conspiracy, and making false statements in connection with national security either in connection with a plot to violently overthrow the government or on security clearance documents.
Today’s news that armed militia groups plotted to overthrow the state government of Michigan, kidnapping its head, should come as little surprise in the wake of the last four years of gaslighting and disinformation distributed from the White House and Fox News.
But it is an in-your-face-reminder that Donald Trump’s demented demagoguery to dictates real-world outcomes in his quest to erase the thin remaining line between normalcy and chaos in America and the world at large.
UPDATE: A previous version of this article stated that six men had been arrested. The real number is twelve.
Grant Stern is the Executive Editor of Occupy Democrats and published author. His new Meet the Candidates 2020 book series is distributed by Simon and Schuster. He's also mortgage broker, community activist and radio personality in Miami, Florida., as well as the producer of the Dworkin Report podcast. Grant is also an occasional contributor to Raw Story, Alternet, and the DC Report, and an unpaid senior advisor to the Democratic Coalition.